Monday, June 20, 2016

Top 10 Actors I Most Want to See on Broadway (But Haven't Yet)

With the success of the Tony Awards, my general penchant for theater (I get to see three shows in the next two months), and my recent trip to Broadway, I've been in a Shubert Alley state of mind lately, and started thinking about the strange situation that is Broadway fans that don't actually live in NYC.  I used to live in NYC, but haven't for a few years now and yet I still maintain my devotion and love for the theater, something I had before I even saw so much as one Broadway play.  This circumstance of loving theater but not living in NYC, through YouTube, cast recordings, and the occasional PBS special, results in you actually becoming fans of certain actors or performers without having actually seen them live.  I've seen some forty Broadway productions over the past six years, and even the worst of them I still loved (there's no beating heading into a Broadway house and being entertained in that way), but I have a few gaps in major Broadway stars that I have somehow never seen live.  So listed below, I figured I'd give a theatrical opening to our Monday with the ten stars that I haven't seen on Broadway yet but desperately want to:

Note: I'm only picking people who have made a show since I started attending six years ago.  You will not see, therefore, legends of the theater like Meryl Streep, Carol Channing, and Barbra Streisand who have long since retired from actual acting on the Great White Way even if I would surely put them on this list without that caveat.

Honorable Mention: I adore Patti LuPone like any gay Broadway fan surely would, but I have technically seen her live in one of her concert tours (she even made eye contact with me, or at least that's what I keep telling myself), though I haven't seen her act on Broadway.  Considering this, I wasn't sure if she should count (she'd be Number One if she did), but I decided not to include her since she did perform a number of her most iconic musical numbers in the show.

10. Kelli O'Hara

What I've Missed: I started watching Broadway shows six years ago, so I'll be listing here only shows since I went to Broadway for the first time (my first show was Kristin Chenoweth in Promises, Promises).  For Kelli that means South Pacific, Nice Work If You Can Get It, The Bridges of Madison County, and The King and I are all missing as O'Hara is one of those few stars that gets a show nearly every season.
Why the Intrigue: Kelli O'Hara is a conundrum for me.  She's one of the most celebrated actresses currently on Broadway with six Tony nominations, but every performance she gives at awards shows or concerts seems to be beautiful but dull.  I've always wanted to know if she's maybe a stronger actress or comes alive in a different way when she's on the stage.
Why She's Missing: Like I said, I don't love her, and her shows always feel like afterthoughts to me.  She's never in a show that's competing for a top Tony win (and since I don't live there I have to be prudent in terms of what I actually see on stage), and generally her shows aren't as thrilling to me.  Still, I'll be seeing The Bridges of Madison County on tour next week!
What I Most Wish I'd Seen: The Light in the Piazza-I have heard she was marvelous in this, and that it's Victoria Clark at her peak.

9. John Lithgow

What I've Missed: The Columnist, A Delicate Balance
Why the Intrigue: Lithgow is one of those performers who clearly has talent, but I've always found a bit scenery-chewy in his many film and television works.  I honestly think he's got skills, though, and would be marvelous on a stage where bigger is better.  I remember feeling similarly about Philip Seymour Hoffman until I saw him in the seismic Death of Salesman, and then was universally moved by his talents and better appreciate his filmic work.  Lithgow feels right around that alley.
Why He's Missing: I generally travel with relatives when I go to see shows on Broadway, and as they are older relatives I have to be a little bit more careful about plays (they tend not to like the ones that are too racy or less famous, since the musicals are clearly more fun), and it's hard to tell in advance when we buy the tickets if a play, quite frankly, will be any good if it's not something tried-and-true like an Arthur Miller or a Tennessee Williams.  Therefore, I couldn't find the time for either of Lithgow's works.
What I Most Wish I'd Seen: Lithgow's resume is a cavalcade of productions (he really is a Broadway champ), but I think his work in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (especially his chemistry with Norbert Leo Butz) would be too delightful to pass up.

8. Phylicia Rashad

What I've Missed: August Osage County
Why the Intrigue: While Bill Cosby has spent the time since their show went off the air snapping up lifetime achievement awards and then watching his reputation rightfully desecrated in recent years, Rashad has instead watched her career flourish on the Broadway stage, becoming the first African-American woman to win Best Actress in a Play, and even starring in the occasional musical (she was the Witch in Into the Woods-did you know that?).
Why She's Missing: Considering that I do tend to get to Broadway shows when they tour, I rarely go to a play or musical on Broadway unless it has the original cast.  Even when it's the case of someone like Rashad, who probably made a very strong Violet Weston, I didn't feel like I should be hitting that without first seeing the original.
What I Most Wish I'd Seen: I actually think her Violet Weston would have been quite good, but Lena Younger in A Raisin in the Sun, the role that finally got her a Best Actress trophy is a ticket I couldn't possibly refuse.

7. Debra Monk

What I've Missed: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Why the Intrigue: Monk, or as Kristin Chenoweth calls her "Mama Monk" since she's played so many different actors mothers, is a longtime Broadway hoofer who is largely out of the spotlight that she once enjoyed near universally.  Still, she's definitely someone who was once a star and occasionally finds her way back on the Great White Way (witness something like Curtains not long ago), and she's an excellent and game singer.
Why She's Missing: Like with Rashad, Monk's only contributions to actual Broadway shows since I started watching are as a replacement.  She's also done off-Broadway work since then, but she seems more content to do bit parts in movies and television in recent years than taking to Shubert Alley (or perhaps she's at that stage where producers aren't heading her way, something that happens to nearly every musical performer at some point in their career).
What I Most Wish I'd Seen: Steel Pier, definitely.  She won a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actress, and did it next to Kristin Chenoweth, who was making her Broadway debut in the production. At the time, it was the most-nominated musical ever to not win a trophy (it was eventually trumped by The Scottsboro Boys).

6. Gavin Creel

What I've Missed: Hair, The Book of Mormon, She Loves Me
Why the Intrigue: While there is a lot of talk about how gay-friendly Broadway is (and it is, especially compared to literally every other major entertainment medium), there still aren't a huge number of openly gay matinee idols on the Great White Way.  Creel manages to be that, having a name that's good enough to go above a marquee, and he's a great singer (and he's cute, which always goes at least a little bit of a distance with me).
Why He's Missing: I was not going to take my entire family to Hair, as that felt like something you just don't need your parents around for, and She Loves Me fell onto my radar on too short of notice (The Book of Mormon I did see, but with different actors).  It's not for a lack of interest, that's for sure.
What I Most Wish I'd Seen: Hair is definitely the title on his list that I most wish I'd been able to see from an overall production standpoint, and he was Tony-nominated for it, but I think I'd go with Thoroughly Modern Millie if only to catch Sutton Foster (an actor I have seen hence her absence from this list) become a star (plus, Creel was Tony-nominated there as well).

5. Donna Murphy

What I've Missed: The People in the Picture
Why the Intrigue: It's Donna freaking Murphy-if you don't get the intrigue, may I welcome you to your first discussion on musical theater.  Murphy is an icon in the world of Broadway, having won two Tony Awards and essentially being one of the truly great Broadway musical actresses of the 1990's.  She also is the first person to find out that Audra McDonald, my North Star of Broadway love, was pregnant, so there's that in terms of reasons to be in love.
Why She's Missing: Like Debra Monk, Murphy has largely gone the way of bit parts in television and movies since her big show-stopper in LoveMusik.  People in the Picture is the only show she's done in the time I've been buying Broadway tickets, and was actually while I was living in NYC, but the reviews weren't great (she was the only reason to see it), and even with me seeing Broadway shows at an astonishing clip back then (I still wish I'd gone to more), I was too tired from work to fit this one in before I moved back.
What I Most Wish I'd Seen: Surely her triumphant Anna in The King and I.  I know this is Tony catnip, but it's hard not to see her classy demeanor as a perfect choice to match this Rodgers & Hammerstein score.

4. Jane Krakowski

What I've Missed: She Loves Me
Why the Intrigue: Krakowski is perhaps the only actor ever to have starred in three different television shows where I genuinely loved the series and watched it consistently while on the air: Ally McBeal, 30 Rock, and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.  As a result, I've developed a mad talent crush on her through the years and know that she's a very capable singer and, in particular, dancer who I'm guessing comes alive in a big way on the stage.
Why She's Missing: Like I said for Creel, I bought my tickets for the latest shows far enough in advance that I couldn't get the buzz around She Loves Me (and its Tony-winning sets), so I missed out on seeing Krakowski assuming that "Vanilla Ice Cream" was about all this show was going to have to lend to it.
What I Most Wish I'd Seen: Clearly Nine, where her "Call from the Vatican" was so sexy that it inspired Penelope Cruz to get an Oscar nomination just by mimicking it (Krakowski was rewarded with a Tony, so don't feel too bad).

3. Jonathan Groff

What I've Missed: Hamilton
Why the Intrigue: Because Jonathan Groff is perfect.  Seriously-he can sing, dance, we're the same age, he's gay, beautiful, talented, funny, a good dramatic actor (Looking-seriously, what a show), and sassy enough that he'd make a magical night of theater, and also I might get to meet him at the Stage Door.  Let's just say I have a crush.  A big one.
Why He's Missing: Because I didn't have a kidney to sell to get to Hamilton, and even if I did his time there might have been interrupted by Andrew Rannells or Rory O'Malley instead.  I do have to admit to being in love with a character that's meant to be a little homosexual has been played by entirely out gay men so far.  Hopefully the producers continue that as the headliners start to exit.
What I Most Wish I'd Seen: Spring Awakening launched the careers of so many different actors that ended up being stars (Groff, Lea Michele, John Gallagher, Jr., Skylar Astin) that I couldn't help but want to catch it.

2. Laura Benanti

What I've Missed: In the Next Room, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, She Loves Me (I'm becoming well aware I should have gotten tickets to this-blame it on an uneasiness about Zachary Levi)
Why the Intrigue: Because Laura Benanti is also perfect, albeit not quite in the same lusty way Jon Groff is (though if I were straight...I probably wouldn't know her name, but I'd like to think she'd be my type).  Benanti has arguably the best pipes on Broadway (give or take Audra or Kristin), is an extremely game performer with impeccable timing, and while television is clearly not her game (or she doesn't know how to pick out decent sitcom scripts), she's flawless when it comes to performing live.
Why She's Missing: I've already been over She Loves Me.  As for Women, it's worth noting that the show was not a big hit, and the reviews weren't kind to anyone except she and Patti LuPone, so I didn't feel the urgency.
What I Most Wish I'd Seen: Clearly Gypsy-not only is it starring LuPone as Mama Rose (finally taking that second Tony Award), but also got Benanti her Tony Award as Louise, so you can't really go wrong here.

1. Lin-Manuel Miranda

What I've Missed: Hamilton (technically he also did M&L for Bring It On: The Musical as well if we want to count that, but only Hamilton as an actor)
Why the Intrigue: I know it's cliche to put him as Number One right now, but he (and Benanti) are the reasons I decided to make this list so I might as well be honest.  Truly, if you haven't gotten on the Lin-Manuel train yet, I don't know what is wrong with you.  Not only is he exceptionally talented, incredibly cute, starring in a musical where the hype actually equals the praise (or at least as far as I can tell from the soundtrack), but he also seems like a genuinely lovely human being, both kind and caring in terms of his political ambitions (supporting Puerto Rico, as well as Latino and gay rights causes) and as a human being.  All-in-all, I am in love.
Why He's Missing: Like with Groff, I just don't have $10,000 lying around waiting for me to be able to buy Hamilton tickets.  Know, though, that I will be buying tickets to literally his next starring production on Broadway literally no matter what it is as I need to see him live.  It's an itch.
What I Most Wish I'd Seen: Hamilton, clearly.  Let's be honest here.

There you have it-my Top 10.  How about you theater-fans-who are the gaps in your theatrical library, and who on this list am I most missing out on?  Share your thoughts below!

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